Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Problem With Stereotypes

The extremely short version of this blog, in continuation with its' title, is that stereotypes are simply part of the human condition and, although it can have its uses, certainly has its shortcomings.

With the obvious already stated i'll delve into the impetus behind this blog posting and try to wrench together some meaningful and insightful thought.

Back from vacation I've decided to resume my pitiful previous attempt at daily jogs.

Typically I choose the evening when the sun has set as the time for jogging.  The reason for this is that the world is joining the sunset and is going into hiding.  The birds exult one last crescendo as the sun recedes and so to does the worlds most dominant species man return to their shelter.


 I have the world to myself where my thoughts can float freely without any distraction.  It's as if only myself and the worlds creator (of which I do not believe in) are alone to witness and contemplate the meaning, and if there is any, behind the worlds inhabitants existence and really just revel in the awesomeness that even if there is no purpose how great it is that I get to experience all of the worlds majesty nonetheless.

But I digress, as I always do, and am really getting away from how black people are criminals, brown people are terrorists and white people are....well from as far as I can tell just swell.

Ya I suspect that this blog post might get me into trouble with those who do not know me well.  Which is pretty well most people.  But the purpose of this blog is to put down on paper my inner musings and so here I go regardless.

The problem with my jog tonight is that I departed just as the sun set.  Unfortunately that meant that some of those distractions I had previously mentioned were still up and about.  The birds had finished the nightly song but there were still a few people holding out a little while longer.

Two such people were a young adult couple playing with a ball at a park that I jog through.  Since my brain was on autopilot in its free associative jogging state it quickly deduced that they were of middle eastern decent, due to skin color, and their ball they were tossing to each other made me think of Muslim terrorists bombers.

Not one of my better provocative thought processes that I've developed during my jogs...

My logical part of my brain immediately turned on and shot down my subconscious part of my brain with all kinds of shameful insults.


I do feel like there is something to learn here.  Apart of course that i'm a horrible, ignorant, bigoted, shameful excuse of a human being.

I'm being playful but that very brieft thought process certainly does seem to paint me as a basic racist.

And i'm not.The large text makes it so..

I'm a very caring, compasionate, humanitarian who hates distinctions that divide Us from Them (I planned to write a blog on that very topic).

I'm not passionate about any sports team, political group, or religion because I believe they all simply divide us and make us forget that we are all basically one and the same.  We all have the same basic genetics that make us all human and we are all simply trying to figure out life in this big blue world.  So while I do think it important to question ideas, to dismiss a person because of the color of their skin, or where they came from is just wrong and makes me sad.  I truly believe we are all brothers and actually have a pretty, albeit hidden, love for humanity in general.  Despite its shortcomings.

Alright the defense of my virtues aside lets get back to how I am in fact a racist...but its not my fault!

Stereotypes are part of human nature.  There is a ton of research that I can point to in order to support that claim but seeing as this is my blog i'm going to make the claim and just have other people take my word for it for brevity's sake (yes I can get even more long winded if I wanted to).

The reason for stereotypes and assumptions are basically to understand the world around us.  In order to treat every single scenario, item and organism as unique you really cannot learn anything and properly navigate the world.

For example.  I woke up today and gravity held me down.  I'm not going to go to bed tonight and strap myself to the ground because I assume that gravity will still be true tomorrow.

Stereotypes are clearly a good thing in the animal world.
If a predator eats something red that turns out to be poisonous or just bad tasting they will assume all other things won't make for a good meal.  This stereotype will lead to less harm in the future overall.

However, obviously this stereotype does not hold true to all prey and in fact nature has managed to take advantage of this stereotype.  Which is why it is suspected that ladybugs are red.  To keep the hungry away.  But it is simply in the best interest in the predator to avoid all red bugs as the harm far out weights the temporary benefit.

And finally researchers studying the brain and learning have speculated that the mind operates kind of like a series of filing cabinets.  This again is so that the mind can make assumptions and quickly assess the world so that we can efficiently manage our lives.

A basic example of this would be a chair.  Within this file folder you would also find, 4 legs, square, and solid.  This allows you to quickly scan a room and find a place to set your behind on without fear that you will bounce off or fall through.  You don't typically find what you believe to be a chair and then do a bunch of scientific tests to make sure that it is in fact a chair do you?  That is stereotypes and assumptions in action.

It is also probably why the 70's sold so much of its unique furniture.  People were in such awe at how weird and unlike furniture it looked that they thought it would be cool to own.  Well this awe quickly wore off in the following years when we realized that these types of furniture, while interesting and unique, aren't exactly practical.


Why does all this preamble matter? 

Well it matters because it explains human behavior.  Rather then just write off my albeit short, and I assure you decidedly rare, racist thought as simply racist, it would be much more interesting to find out why my mind decided to go down that path.

Based upon what I had mentioned previously it would appear as though my brains file folder has filed middle eastern looking (whatever that is) in the same folder as terrorist and my mind immediately connected the two.

Where did my brain make this association?

Sure there is the primary source.  Just our every day living where we compile all of the information from our experiences throughout the day.

But this doesn't exactly explain why my subconscious made the association with the very friendly looking couple with terrorists.  I've met many ethnic groups in general and the vast majority of my interactions have been pleasant.  This including all the times we've discussed politics, religion and ethics.  Areas of discussion that usually leads to unpleasantness has always led to positive interactions even when we had very different viewpoints.

So clearly there is an outside source that is skewing my internal filing folder.

Who or what is the outside source?

And this is where I pick my scapegoat to absolve me from all my racist sins.

The media.

Sure its cliche to blame the media for pretty well anything but it may be the go to source for a good reason.

Especially when dealing with groups that you may not have a ton of interaction with the media may be the prime source for any information regarding that group.

And that is a terrible terrible thing considering the media has no reason to portray positive encounters.  That just isn't newsworthy.  Instead it just shows all the horrible things in the world.

So obviously right now much of the news is dominated with Islamic extremism and all kinds of terrible things going on in the middle east.

Furthermore i'm always very interested in politics, religion, and ethics in general and am also consuming tons of podcasts while at work on the same subject.

If all i'm hearing, and reading about, is that Muslims and middle easterners are bad then there is no wonder my brain when on autopilot it makes terrible associations.

Furthermore what about all those other people who haven't had the privilege of meeting, interacting with, getting to know and understanding other groups viewpoints like I have.

They have nothing to go on other then what they see in the news.

So there is no wonder that real outward racism exists and is prevalent in the world.

But what is the solution?

The media really has a tendency to really beleaguer on over arching narrative.  It's lazy but apparently effective journalism.

If there is a particularly horrendous plane crash the media tend to find and report on any other new plane crashes shortly afterward.

Even though with the thousands of safe flights the audience begins to believe that plane travel is dangerous.

Currently there is an obvious narrative that terrorism is an all en composing dangerous thing that we need to all remain vigilant of.

While there is no doubt that terrorism is a very real and dangerous thing is it really necessary that it be the seemingly sole focus of the media?

Especially when you consider how many deaths in Canada can be attributed to terrorism vs other things like...getting struck by lightning.

Wait so what is the solution then?

Well there was a time that the media was dominated by purely negative stereotypes for the black community.

But that all changed with the Cosby show (and later on Family Matters).

The Cosby show demonstrated a black family devoid of all those negative stereotypes.  Finally
the world was able to see that black people were just like everyone else.  We all have the same wants and needs and are just trying to figure out life in this big blue world.

So clearly the media needs to deliver some more positive associations with Muslims and or Mideasterns in general.

And considering how much good came out of the Cosby show I think I know just the guy for the job.

I think we get Bill Cosby to help out with coming up with a new family show with all kinds of positive messages for this new group.

Bill Cosby is clearly the man for the job.  Hes a man of pure moral character whos character is beyond reproach.

Whats he been up to lateley anyhow?  Spearheading some new civil rights movements?

...He's what?....You don't say....well surely shes just looking for publicity...multiple shes you say?...dozens!'ve got to be effing....well shit.

In that case maybe we actually just try to engage in conversation with our fellow brothers and sisters and get to know one another without succumbing to all the negative stereotypes that the media rains down upon us.

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